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Using Pokémon Go to gain business opportunities

25th July 2016

This blog was written by work experience student Josh in July 2016.


I'm sure by now most of you reading this will have heard about Pokémon Go - the most successful mobile game of all time, at least on a launch week basis.

Having topped app charts all over the world within hours of its launch, its clear Niantic has hit the jackpot with this intuitive AR game. By Monday 11th of July, Pokémon Go already had 21 million active users, which surpassed the previous most popular mobile game, Candy Crush Saga which peaked at 20 million. It’s clear the number of users is only going to increase as Pokémon Go starts to shift from being just a game into a social phenomenon.

Before I can explain the business potential behind this game, I need to explain a few key mechanics of the game that create this potential. As Pokémon game is based off of an augmented reality format; it requires you to move around in the real world for your avatar to move within the game. While the Pokémon themselves can 'spawn' anywhere, for you to collect them you need in game items such as ‘Poké Balls’ and ‘Incense’ to draw more Pokémon creatures to your location. To get these items you can either buy some 'Poké Coins' the premium currency of the game, or go to 'Poké Stops'. Poké Stops are more commonly found in urban areas, and randomly give you an array of items if you're close enough. Then you have even rarer sites called Pokémon Gyms. These are where trainers can take their best Pokémon and fight to claim the gym for their team, which can take up to 10 minutes or longer if someone else is also there also trying to claim the gym.

Pokémon Go

How can marketers use Pokémon Go to generate business leads?

Clearly, if people are congregating around these areas then there is always the potential that they'll want something to eat or drink - especially if it’s easily available. By making sponsorship deals with Pokémon there is the potential that you could make your restaurant/café/shop a stop or gym, greatly increasing the likelihood of players spending money there. In the future this could be an effective and rewarding method for marketing, because the number of players is so huge. Although, the ability to do this is currently non-existent for smaller businesses, and there is no guaranteeing that it will be in the future.

However, for Niantic it’s an incredible opportunity to set up such sponsorship deals with larger companies, as it has the potential to massively expand the franchise. Interestingly, Reddit users have stumbled upon one of these sponsorship deals with global restaurant giant, McDonald’s. Their research has shown that upon launch of the game in Japan, all McDonald’s branches will either become Pokémon Gyms or stops, so no doubt the huge Pokémon fan base in Japan will be flocking to McDonald’s in the near future. Because McDonald’s has such an incredible global reach, there is nothing to stop them from expanding this deal to other countries.

What will be interesting to see in the future is not only if other large franchises will start to make similar deals to the McDonalds sponsorship, but if similar deals become available to smaller businesses. Another key factor is whether the game maintains all of the new players, or if the user base depletes after the excitement dies down. This uncertainty may also be cause for concern when deciding if you can use the game to the advantage of your business.